Has COVID-19 Permanently Reshaped the Clinical Trial Landscape?

Tricia Barrett, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Praxis

Medical heroes like Debbie Birx and Anthony Fauci have helped heighten awareness of clinical trials and their role in battling COVID-19 during numerous interviews and press conferences in the past few months, and the industry may never operate the same way again, says Tricia Barrett, senior vice president and managing director at Praxis, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based patient recruitment and retention company.

“A silver lining here is they and others have helped” direct public attention to trials, Barrett says. “I think they’ve helped to make patients and the general public more interested in clinical research.” Praxis currently has some 70 clinical trials at various stages of completion around the globe. “Only a handful have completely halted,” she notes, in part because they’ve been able to “pivot” to using a more decentralized approach.

While COVID-19 has impacted trials on many levels in the near-term, Barrett believes there will be a “long-term ripple effect,” with the clinical trial industry being more cognizant of patient choice and ease of participation issues. Noting telehealth and home health visits aren’t “new concepts,” she says the current health crisis has “forced” swifter adoption of new ideas and technologies to help sustain clinical trials already in motion.

“As an industry, we’re working together better than we ever have,” Barrett says. “No one is being territorial as we fight this pandemic.”

“Looking beyond the coronavirus crisis, I see more decentralization for clinical trials,” says Irfan Khan, CEO at Circuit Clinical. “It’s going to accelerate in a post-COVID world.”

Khan believes that study sponsors are seeing it, too. Going forward, sponsors are going to need more flexible solutions for patients, with the ability to conduct parts of studies at doctors’ offices, clinics, and patients’ homes, Khan says.

Firsthand evidence has helped sway his opinion, Khan says. “I was never a big fan of working from home,” he notes. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of teleconferencing, videoconferencing,” and other technologies in pulling the research team together since the coronavirus forced the physical office to close, he says.

Barrett has also been heartened by how her shop has been able to operate with its physical office shuttered. “We haven’t experienced any downtime,” she says. “I think some people who weren’t so open to change will now see the value of decentralized trials and bringing them closer to patients.”

Author: Michael Causey